[Review] THE LURKER, a ponderous and predictable slasher film

A group of high school seniors, played by actors in their late 20s and early 30s, are being stalked and slain by a lumbering killer wearing a hoodie and a medieval plague doctor mask in The Lurker, a ponderous and predictable slasher film from director Eric Liberacki (Spoiled Fruit). 

The plot centers around fledgling thespian Taylor Wilson (Scout Taylor-Compton) and her final performance with the high school drama department playing Juliet opposite a lanky sleazebag Romeo named Miles Little (Michael Emery). All Taylor has to do is finish her last show and survive the cast party at the Little mansion, then she can kiss her small-town life goodbye and head off to Julliard. If it wasn’t for all those pesky bodies piling up around her.

The Lurker follows the basic blueprint for a low budget slasher movie, meaning it gives us a series of scenes where the victims hang out in small groups — sitting in a classroom, hanging out backstage, getting drunk and irresponsible at a ‘teenage’ house party — until one of them comes up with a reason to walk off on their own. One goes to the bathroom, Another goes to get her phone or car keys. Maybe they have a spat and one storms off. The next thing the audience knows, the person that goes off alone runs into the killer and is, well, killed. 

The fact that the audience knows what will happen if one of the cast goes off on their own is a hurdle that all slasher filmmakers face and need to clear to make their film work. The better ones add a twist to play with the audience’s expectations or think up a cool way to introduce the killer to the scene and not just have them off-camera waiting for their cue. The less ambitious slasher films don’t worry about the hows and whys and just depend on splattering gore across the screen to either scare or sicken the audience enough to stop thinking about anything but keeping their dinners down.

With The Lurker, Liberacki stays in the middle of the road; his killer shows up on cue no matter the logic involved and he kills in ways that are just as predictable. OK, maybe the way he smashes one of the kid’s heads in with a cinder block is unexpected, but it is also a bit ridiculous. If your killer is stalking people with a knife in his hand, have him use the knife and not just some conveniently placed construction equipment.

To his credit, Liberacki and cinematographer Brandon Hoeg (Sun King) give The Lurker a visual style that most low-budget horror movie makers would kill for, especially in the way they light and shoot the stage sequences. The scenes of the killer chasing its next victim are well shot, too, and although the kills themselves aren’t too scary, they are at least well photographed.
While it looks good, though, no amount of cinematographic magic can make up for the lackluster performance of the cast. It’s not just that none of the actors are unbelievable as high school students; they’re not very believable at all. The adults in the movie are just as bad. For example, when we first meet Miles’ dad. Ross Little (Rikki Lee Travolta). he has an obnoxious and annoying (Southern?) accent. Watching him sit alone in his bedroom cleaning his rifle while his son and his classmates get drunk and high in his house is the single creepiest thing in the movie. But when one of the kids pukes up blood and has to be taken to the hospital, Ross loses all trace of the accent when he tells the kids to wait for him in the house until he gets back. It’s a gaff that audiences will remember long after forgetting the rest of The Lurker.

Release Date: April 14th, 2020 (DVD, Digital).

Director/writer: Eric Liberacki.

Cast: Naomi Grossman, Scout Taylor-Compton, Ari Lehman, Adam Huss, Casey Tutton, Domenica Cameron-Scorsese, Michael Emery.

More on The Lurker at Indican: https://www.indicanpictures.com/new-releases/the-lurker-x6day

  • John Black, The Lurker
John Black
John Black still remembers his first horror movie, sneaking in to a double-feature of Horror House with Frankie Avalon and a Boris Karloff film he can’t remember the name of but will always remember for giving him his first glimpse of cinematic nudity as one of the actresses moved from the bed to the door without putting on any underwear! (Fond family memory: That glimpse, when discovered by his parents, cased John’s mom to call the theater and yelling at the manager for letting her son see ‘such filth’.) Luckily, John was more impressed by the blood and horror than the bare haunches and quickly became a devotee of the genre.

John has been a professional movie reviewer since 1987, when his first review – of a Robert De Niro film called Angel Heart – appeared in the entertainment section of The Cape Codder newspaper. He’s been writing about film ever since, primarily now as the entertainment editor at Boston Event Guide. Hardly a day goes by when he doesn’t watch at least one movie, which is how he thinks life was meant to be.